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Series Preview: Mariners (66-68) vs. Athletics (58-75)

The Mariners start off the last month of the season with a nine-game homestand.

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

At a Glance

Athletics Mariners
Athletics Mariners
Game 1 Friday, September 1 | 7:10 pm
LHP Sean Manaea RHP Mike Leake
46% 54%
Game 2 Saturday, September 2 | 6:10 pm
RHP Jharel Cotton RHP Yovani Gallardo
43% 57%
Game 3 Sunday, September 3 | 1:10 pm
RHP Daniel Gossett LHP Andrew Albers
44% 56%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Athletics Edge
Overview Mariners Athletics Edge
Batting (wRC+) 100 (8th in AL) 99 (9th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) 7.6 (7th) -39.1 (15th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 120 (14th) 105 (8th) Athletics
Bullpen (FIP-) 98 (9th) 103 (14th) Mariners

The Mariners limp home after losing five straight to close out their long East Coast road trip. After their series win in Atlanta, the Mariners had around a one in five chance of making the playoffs. Those odds have completely cratered six games later. Even salvaging a single win out of the series in Baltimore wouldn’t have changed the reality they’re facing. In a Wild Card race marked by ups and downs, it seems like every other team is gaining ground while the Mariners faltered. It’s both cruel timing and their good luck running out. Amazingly enough, the Mariners find themselves in almost the exact same place in the standings as they were last year at the beginning of September—four and a half games out in the Wild Card race with a bunch of teams ahead of them. That team managed to go 18-9 in September and made the last few days of the season really interesting. Matching that record this year would get the Mariners to 84 wins on the year and would require them to win every single series from here on out. I just don’t think that’s enough.

The Athletics:

Clear sellers at the trade deadline, the Athletics ended up dealing away three members of their pitching staff. The biggest trade was the Sonny Gray deal with the Yankees, but they also moved Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson as well. Perhaps more surprising was keeping Jed Lowrie around. The market for offensive upgrades was pretty weak this season but keeping Lowrie around means that their top prospect Franklin Barretos remain blocked from regular playing time. Chad Pinder, who filled in at second base earlier this year, is finding playing time anywhere he can and is hoping he can make a case for himself as the A’s new utility man.

Key Players

3B Matt ChapmanA Cal State Fullerton product (Alma mater of our own Ethan Novak), Matt Chapman was the 25th overall selection in the 2014 draft. He quickly worked his way up through the farm system before being promoted to the big league squad on June 15th. The third baseman’s most impressive qualities may be in the field, where he impresses with his quick hands and huge arm. He isn’t as polished offensively, but does possess a great deal of power; in 504 AA plate appearances in 2015, he ran a .276 ISO. Even more impressively, he posted a .331 ISO in 204 plate appearances in Triple-A before his promotion. If he can limit his strikeouts, his offensive upside is immense. Regardless, his defense and power will allow him to succeed in the majors for a long time.

LF Khris DavisSince 2013, when he made his MLB debut, Khris Davis owns the fifth highest ISO in the league. The best season of his career was 2016, when he drilled 42 home runs and registered 102 RBI en route to posting a 123 wRC+. His strikeout rate has continued to rise over the last three seasons and it’s peaked this year at 31.9%. Despite the additional whiffs, he’s continuing to build off of last year’s momentum. The 29-year-old slugger has slugged 23 home runs and his walk rate has bounced back up to 11.0%, pushing his wRC+ up to 126.

DH Ryon HealyRyon Healy bust onto the scene last summer when he slashed .305/.337/.524 in his rookie season. His strong, athletic build helped him post a .219 ISO in 2016, though he was not as effective in the field. The Athletics brought Trevor Plouffe aboard, allowing Healy to spend most of his time at DH, while picking up occasional playing time at either corner infield spot. After a slow start, he’s posted two solid months in a row, boosting his slash line to .275/.305/.514. He’s continuing to hit for power even though his batting average has taken a bit of a tumble.

2B Jed Lowrie – After spending the last two seasons nursing a number of injuries, Jed Lowrie looks to be completely healthy this year. His gap power has returned and his strikeout and walk ratios are trending the right way. The return of his power might be related to an increase to his fly ball rate and his hard hit rate. It hasn’t translated into too many home runs but it’s a good match with his high contact approach at the plate. He’s also been pretty steady, if unspectacular, at second base for the A’s.

Probable Pitchers

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics

LHP Sean Manaea

130 2/3 20.7% 7.8% 11.3% 43.1% 4.55 4.10

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Four-seam 92.3 58.0% 110 112 111
Changeup 84.2 23.7% 172 85 143
Slider 80.9 18.4% 168 92 143

In his debut season last year, Sean Manaea just got better and better as the year went on. He increased his strikeout-to-walk ratio from 2.75 to 4.06 in the second half and limited opposing batters to a .276 wOBA after the All-Star break. His three pitch repertoire is extremely effective, though it does lead to a fairly large platoon split. His fastball/slider combo to lefties is nasty but he rarely uses his breaking pitch against righties. For opposite handed batters, he’ll use a changeup that generates a very impressive amount of whiffs. That last pitch is so important for him because it was his least developed pitch when he was drafted and in the minors and it’s the key to his success in the starting rotation. Manaea has really struggled in the second half the season. He’s allowed 32 runs in his eight starts since the All-Star break and his strike out rate has completely cratered. He struck out just seven batters in all of August. Either he’s dealing with an unknown injury or he’s completely fatigued after a long season.

RHP Jharel Cotton

110 18.8% 9.3% 13.4% 35.9% 5.40 5.29

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Four-seam 93.5 27.6% 129 95 118
Sinker 92.8 19.3% 149 69 122
Cutter 88.8 24.3% 161 105 142
Changeup 78.2 20.3% 95 77 89
Curveball 77.9 8.6% 32 103 56

Jharel Cotton has one of the most intriguing pitch arsenals in the majors, but inconsistency has limited him ability to reach his potential. His “rising” fastball sits around 92-93 mph with some excellent horizontal movement to it. But his standout pitch is his changeup. He throws that pitch 15 miles per hour slower than his fastball and is able to generate some impressive movement with the pitch—both horizontal run and vertical drop. Those attributes lead to a batted ball profile that leans heavily on weak contact. Last season, almost a quarter of the fly balls he allowed were pop ups and he’s among the league leaders in infield fly ball rate this year as well. That’s very important because he’s struggled with giving up too many home runs in his minor league career. I haven’t even mentioned his cutter, which has improved by leaps and bounds, generating a whiff over 30% of the time an opposing batter swings.

RHP Daniel Gossett

65 2/3 17.3% 5.5% 18.2% 44.5% 5.21 4.71

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Velocity Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Pitch Type Velocity Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Four-seam 92.0 33.7% 20 116 52
Sinker 92.0 19.0% 79 65 74
Changeup 84.5 11.2% 93 94 93
Slider 84.1 22.7% 70 103 81
Curveball 78.8 13.4% 115 96 109

Another young pitcher called up by the Athletics, Daniel Gossett is getting his chance to shine on the big league stage. Last year, he took some huge steps forward, beginning the year in High-A, getting promoted a level mid-season, and then ending with a cameo in Triple-A. He was able to add 10 points to his strikeout rate and improved his walk rate as well. That progress stuck with him this year and earned him a call up in the middle of June. Unfortunately, his strikeout rate hasn’t translated to the majors and he’s been roughed up in a few of his starts. Oddly enough, he’s already faced the Astros and the White Sox twice despite only starting five games in the majors thus far. He commands his rising fastball well and mixes in a changeup that can keep left-handed batters honest. His best pitch is his hard, biting slider that could be an excellent weapon against right-handed hitters.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 80-53 0.602 -- L-W-L-L-W
Angels 69-65 0.515 11.5 W-L-W-W-W
Rangers 66-67 0.496 14.0 L-L-W-W-L
Mariners 66-68 0.493 14.5 L-L-L-L-L
Athletics 58-75 0.436 22.0 W-W-L-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees 71-62 0.534 +1.0 W-L-L-L-W
Twins 70-63 0.526 -- L-W-W-W-W
Angels 69-65 0.515 1.5 W-L-W-W-W
Orioles 68-66 0.507 2.5 W-W-W-W-L
Rays 67-68 0.496 4.0 L-W-W-L-W

Now that we’re into the last month of the season, the schedule turns towards intradivisional matchups. That seriously benefits the Twins as they’ll get to face two teams who are actively trying to tank, the White Sox and the Tigers. With their sweep of the White Sox this week, they’ve pushed within a game of the Yankees for the first Wild Card spot. They’ll host the Royals this weekend. With a tougher schedule ahead of them, the Angels made a few late upgrades yesterday, bringing in Justin Upton and Brandon Phillips to bolster their weakest positions. They also swept their series earlier this week against the Athletics and travel to Arlington to face the Rangers over the weekend. The Blue Jays snapped the Orioles seven-game winning streak last night in the first game of a four-game series. The Yankees started their own four-game series with a win over the Red Sox.